Just a few months after beloved Russellville Independent Schools Gifted and Talented Coordinator Belinda Ray passed away last year, RHS Biology Teacher Joey Stinson asked students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Club he sponsors if they would like to build a garden in her memory.
Of course the students jumped at the chance, and planning for the garden began in December.
“I enjoyed it because it was for a good reason,” said Kathleen Noe, a gifted and talented student and rising senior. “We were doing it for a teacher who meant a lot to us.”
Last week, after several months of hard work, the Belinda Ray Memorial Garden at RHS was finished, complete with an arch built by Logan County High School student Dustin Morgan and RHS student Jefferson Hendricks, plants donated by Stuart Gardens and Shawn Sansom, who is a STEM Club co-sponsor and chemistry teacher at RHS, and topsoil donated by Bobby Young.
“I know she would be ecstatic to see it because she was such a bubbly person and loved doing arts and crafts and having gardens,” Noe said of Ray.
Matthew Marshall, who graduated from RHS Saturday, did a lot of the heavy digging on the project, but says he didn’t mind the hard work
“She was my speech teacher back in elementary school,” Marshall said of Ray. “She helped me and was very influential in my life because she was family as well. She was my father’s cousin. She was always there for me in elementary, middle and high school.”
Stinson said he was pleased students took ownership of the project.
“It’s a good testament to what Belinda Ray was all about – having the kids do things,” he said.
The garden is also a good way for the students to remember a teacher who had a tremendous impact on Russellville City Schools.
“It’s a way to make her memory more set in their hearts, and its’ something they’ll remember doing forever,” Sansom said.
Marshall said he’s looking forward to returning to RHS in a year or so to see the garden. There are plans to expand and improve the memorial, which will soon feature the hand-painted sign RHS art students made for it.
“I think it’s going to be real good once it’s completely finished,” Marshall said.